Choose your travel companions wisely

Last week for our discussion topic I resurrected an old newspaper column I’d written years ago. Although I’d revisited my earlier writings because I had writer’s block, once I got in there, I (re)discovered some of my old thoughts that were the inspiration for Redefining Love.

Our discussion last week was so successful that I decided to revisit another column. Although this was written prior to the creation of the  Redefining Love, you may see some very familiar themes that would later turn into what now is Redefining Love.

It’s fascinating for me to revisit these older writings and see how the framework was being developed and applied to my own life, even before the idea was born. 

Choose your travel companions wisely

This post first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on December 27, 2014.

A common refrain in my parenting is an emphasis on being caring, kind, and accountable.

I was giving my nine-year-old the usual lecture recently when he shot me an irritated look and said, “But what about everyone else? Why am I the only one who is supposed to worry about being a good person?”

I assured him that he is certainly not the only one. I encouraged him to seek out the company of others being kind.

After the conversation, I realized I haven’t always followed my own advice.

For most of my life I didn’t understand that in order to be truly caring, kind, and accountable I also had to apply that standard to others.

I have been blessed with amazing relationships throughout my life. But some of the most significant were with people who did not share my priorities.

Through these relationships I let myself and other people down. By not sticking up for myself I became an enabler of toxic behavior. By not saying “no” I was saying “yes, please.”

“Yes, please treat me and everyone around you like dirt and I’ll just pretend it isn’t happening.”

I thought that in order to be caring and kind, I had to turn a blind eye to other’s misbehavior. In doing so, I ended up not only getting permanently scarred, but also absorbing some of those negative behaviors myself.

Looking back, the times when I have been the most disappointed in myself – the times when I was not caring, kind, and accountable – are the times I was trying so hard to please people who didn’t share these values.

It is difficult to remain true to yourself if you engage in disingenuous relationships.

Choose your relationships wisely. Tune into yourself. Learn to trust your gut.

Being caring and kind doesn’t mean ignoring other people’s shortcomings. It means you forgive them for them.

But forgiveness doesn’t equal relationship.

In order to have a relationship, you must also have trust.

In order to have trust, there must be accountability – from yourself and others.

People who aren’t accountable for their own behavior are not worried about you. They are only worried about covering their tracks.

When you encounter someone like this, respectfully move a safe distance away. 

Because at some point – it may be a few weeks, a few months, or many years – you will realize that the relationship hurts more than helps, hides more than seeks, and hasn’t helped you become the best version of yourself.

Pursue relationships that make you feel better about life and the world, not worse.

You don’t owe anyone your whole self. You owe yourself relationships with balance.

Seek out people who are caring and kind to themselves and others, who respect their own journey and yours, and who want to leave the world better than they found it.

This doesn’t mean you must limit your relationships to people who are just like you. There is a whole wide world of diverse, wonderful people out there being caring, kind, and accountable. Enjoy them all!

Holding others accountable doesn’t mean you have to call out every misdeed or contradiction to your values.

There is a fine line between accountability and judgment.

Allow other people their own journey; recognize that your journey is uniquely yours.

Imagine your life as a world tour of exploration, and there is limited seating on the bus. Choose your travel companions wisely.

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